DEP continues to monitor cleanup efforts following Miller Chemical fire

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CONEWAGO TOWNSHIP, Pa. — The state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) on Friday issued an  update on the cleanup efforts and environmental impacts of last week’s fire at Miller Chemical, a fertilizer plant in Adams County. Miller Chemical is a manufacturer of water soluble fertilizers used for commercial agricultural crops as well a supplier of soil mixtures. Due to the large amount of water used in firefighting efforts, contaminated runoff had a significant impact to Slagle’s Run and the South Branch of the Conewago Creek.

  • More than two inches of rain fell on the cleanup site this week and pushed the on-site containment measures to capacity. Thursday’s rain caused a contaminated runoff retention trench to overflow and the water breached an earthen embankment.
  • As of Friday morning, runoff was again entering Slagle’s Run. Impacts from the runoff are expected to be minor.
  • Results of samples taken Thursday night indicate concentrations of contaminants in the contained water are greatly reduced from what was in the firefighting runoff.
  • With more heavy rain expected this weekend, additional efforts are being taken to increase on-site storage capacity. These efforts include increasing the number of onsite storage tanks and limiting stormwater entering the site.
  • Efforts are being made to remove contaminated runoff water currently onsite for proper treatment and disposal. Trucks are on standby waiting to start moving material off site as soon as a disposal option is finalized. This would free up additional storage capacity.
  • While the Conewago Creek is no longer discolored from firefighting runoff, the recent rainfall has increased turbidity (cloudiness) levels in the creek. Citizens should refrain from recreating or fishing in the creek.
  • The New Oxford Municipal Authority’s (NOMA) water intake located on the South Branch of the Conewago Creek was shut down during the fire and remains closed. New Oxford is receiving water through an interconnection with the York Water Company and other outside sources. Mandatory restrictions remain in place and have been effective in allowing NOMA to meet the immediate needs of its customers.
  • East Berlin, located downstream on the Conewago, is operating all five of its wells. No problems were observed. Two of its wells closest to the creek had been taken out of service as a precaution.
  • No significant impacts to the Susquehanna River have been observed. There is no discoloration to the river water.
  • DEP staff is reaching out to all of the public water suppliers. Wrightsville is the nearest downstream public water system that draws water from the Susquehanna River. Results of samples taken at Wrightsville show normal background readings. Wrightsville has turned its pumps on and is again pumping water from the river.
  • Lancaster and Columbia also draw water from the Susquehanna River. Both operators report no significant changes to the condition of their raw water. Sample results show normal background concentrations for the current condition of the river after recent rain.

While DEP does not regulate private wells, the department shared with the federal Environmental Protection Agency information from local citizens who were concerned about possible impacts to their wells. On Tuesday, EPA took samples from four wells it had identified as most likely to be impacted by contaminated runoff. Preliminary results from those samples indicated levels did not exceed the Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCL).

Owners of private wells should continue to monitor their water. If an owner of a private well wishes to take further action they can work with a private lab to monitor for Nitrate, Nitrite, Iron, Manganese and Total Organic Carbon (TOC).

For more information on private drinking wells visit here.